Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. John D. Saillant

Second Advisor

Dr. Jose Antonio Brandao

Third Advisor

Dr. Nora Faires

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Campus Only


The Jesuits of Maryland were slave owners for approximately two centuries. Throughout the colonial and republican periods of the United States, the Jesuits demonstrated unique reasons for becoming slaveholders. They ultimately decided to end slaveholding through a mass sale of 272 slaves in 1838.

During the colonial period, Jesuits were anxious to demonstrate that their religious affiliation should not debar them from the full rights of English subjects. Possessing slaves became a means of exercising Catholic entitlement to own property. However, Jesuits proved ambivalent about their responsibilities as plantation managers and they had difficulty securing the prosperity of their estates.

By the 1830's, concern developed about nativist opposition to Catholicism. Jesuits feared as slave owners, they had become fodder for anti-Catholicism. They also decided to reduce their presence in rural areas in order to urbanize their ministry to serve the growing number of immigrants in the large cities of the eastern United States. In 1838, the last Jesuit slaves were sold to Catholic planters in Louisiana.

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